Electronics > Manufacturing & Assembly

LPKF Protomat S62 PCB router-Producing many different boards at once?

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How would I produce several DIFFERENT pcb's at the same time from ONE board (i.e Pannelising). I've heard you can MERGE pcb's and you can do a step and repeat if making several identical pcb's. Anyone know how this is done?


Just import whichever LPR/LMD files you need and place them on the PCB in BoardMaster until you're happy or out of space. Real panelising happens in the CAM software (step-and-repeat for a multiple of identical PCBs), before you import it into the milling software.

Was that what you were asking for?

I think so. I'll illustrate the scenario. Students each send a zipped file containing the gerber and drill files (and other required files as needed) to a central server. A technician checks each file for validity and if it can be produced. One new bare board is put in the LPKF. As we don't want to waste the PCB material (and time) it would be best if we can produce upto 4 discrete jobs (1 per student-Each board completely different) per bare PCB. Can this be done? Does each job have to be done on it's own or can the boards be made one after the other automatically? Also can single sided boards be handled or would a single board design still require two layers anyway (with the holes on the top layer pads isolated)? Obviously each job above would require the same tooling  and the board would need to be flipped during each job for the other layer to be done. Is there anything I've missed? Thanks.

There is a fair amount of "stuff" that goes no between gerber/drill files and actually having the LPKF plot your board.  On my somewhat obsolete system/software there are two programs involved.  "CircuitCam" imports the gerbers and drill files and generates the milling outlines and tool lists.  This is saved in a .CAM file.   From there, you export .LMD files to "BoardMaster", which lets you position the design on a board, actually runs the plotter, asks for tool changes, and so on.  You can also replicate a design (make a 3*4 array of a particular design, for example), set up multiple designs on the same board, and so on.

The BoardMaster file is actually savable, so you can make one for each piece of copper clad stock, and it will remember the locations of the designs you've already removed, so you can add new designs on THAT board with some confidence (assuming you pay a bit of attention.)

If your students are going to stop at gerber files, your technician will have a lot of work to do.  Some of it is probably automateable to a larger degree than I've done (especially with newer software and newer machines), and it may not be possible for the students to do anyway (license issues for the LPKF software!)  But I'm always a bit amused when people with homebrew PCB routers think they're done just because they've gotten an outline path.  The LPKF software does SO much more than that, and it's still a PITA.

I've used one of the latest versions of the LPFK machines and software, besides the old one that I recall a bit confusely...

For single layer boards, I only see two ways for making them together with double sided ones: adding a rubout area equal to the board outline, and putting it on the bottom (so that it should rub out all of the copper on the bottom at the expense of mills and time), or inserting pads on the bottom too, which could better be done by students at the layout stage, definitely ending in a two-layer board, although layed out as it was a single-layer.

As for making many boards on the same panel, it all requires some intelligence to be involved, unless all of the boards have the same size. In this last case, on the BoardMaster you can set a position offset, so that the imported board gets automatically shifted by a known amount, instead of a manual positioning.


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